It all started with a simple bar conversation. Turns out a drinking buddy was working at a brew pub, and state law--incomprehensibly to me!--forced the owner to offer other, more mainstream beers. In addition to his Microbrew Lovingly Crafted IPA or whatever, he had to offer Miller Lite and other "beers." I was furious.

I have nothing against the Miller Brewing Company of Milwaukee, Wisc. I do not drink its underpowered runoff, but I have no quarrel with them as do. Many fine people dig Miller, so no problem.

But what the blinking shift-character-exclamation-point does the government have to do with Small Brew Pub Southeast's beer?

Two arguments were offered: (a) the government wanted to ensure competition by offering Brew Pub Neaveau's beer alongside other, better-known beers, or (b) the government wanted to make sure the big boys of the alcohol trade would not be undercut locally by a better product.

To me, either argument is infuriating. I'm a staunch capitalist. If the market will buy it, sell it. If the market don't want it, you'll fail. Period. Laws are there to--in my naive opinion!--prevent us from hurting one another physically, not to prevent us from competing in business. If I break your knees or burn your store to prevent you from competing with me, then yes, I should be held accountable to the law. But there's no freaking way I should be legally required to offer your product alongside mine in my own establishment. However open to the public it may be, it's my bar.

I suppose the reality of the situation is that Miller et al. have deep ties to the gov't via lobbies, operating at an echelon of high-powered luncheons to which I am not invited. As a capitalist, I am enraged: that government should be involved at all, and that government's opinion on the subject is open for sale.

Dollars are, of course, votes when you buy (or choose not to buy) my product or my competitor's. Good business that. But when dollars can buy votes in state or federal legislature...what the hell have we got a representative democracy for? Why not just dispense with the illusions of "free trade" and "free government" right now and call them by more marketable names?

It's all for sale, and I don't agree with that. As an inveterate capitalist, I do believe that most of it's for sale. However, the rules of the game by which we sell should not be; the rules of the game by which we buy--and, incidentally, live daily life!--should not be.

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